After consecutive blowout losses in the last two weeks, the San Francisco 49ers look to get their first win of the season against the division rival Arizona Cardinals. Prior to their bye, the Cardinals were dismantled in a 33-0 shutout loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Both teams will be featuring new starters at various positions that weren’t involved in the week four matchup. Here is a look at the three things the 49ers can do to finally get a win.
Week Nine San Francisco 49ers Keys to Victory
Stopping Adrian Peterson
After his trade from the New Orleans Saints, Adrian Peterson appeared to be rejuvenated as he exploded for 134 yards and two touchdowns. In their following game against the NFC West rival Rams, Peterson was kept in check with an 11 carry, 21-yard performance. The game quickly got out of hand once starting quarterback Carson Palmer injured his left arm. With Palmer out of the picture for this game, the 49ers should expect a healthy dose of Peterson in the hope of setting up play action and keeping Drew Stanton upright.
As his debut game with the Cardinals illustrated, Peterson is still capable of a full workload and can take over a game if given the opportunity. Stopping Peterson requires gap discipline and remaining technically sound when tackling. The 49ers are currently allowing 131.8 rushing yards per game which is in the bottom four of the league. As the game grinds on Peterson’s tough running style can wear down a defense; bottling him up for a few drives or even an entire half won’t change the gameplan for Arizona.
Future hall of fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is one of the more respected players in the league. Coming off back to back years with over 100 catches, Fitzgerald is yet again on pace for an impressive catch total as he has 45 catches at the midway point of the season. And as he made painfully clear in the week four overtime win against San Francisco, even in a poor performance he can still find a way to make the biggest play of the game. His overtime touchdown was only his fourth catch of the game but sealed the win for Arizona.
Third round pick Ahkello Witherspoon will be tasked with covering the future hall of fame receiver. Following the trade of disgruntled cornerback Rashard Robinson to the New York Jets, the 49ers will be relying heavily on Witherspoon for the remainder of the season. He got the start last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and received one of the higher grades by Pro Football Focus.
Witherspoon witnessed the ups and downs of an NFL cornerback as he recorded an interception, and then a few drives later Alshon Jeffery made a contested highlight reel catch for a touchdown against him. The trial by fire will surely continue for Witherspoon against Fitzgerald who has made plenty of his own highlight reel catches over the years.
Avoiding Self Inflicted Wounds
This third key to victory might as well be copied and pasted heading into every matchup for the remainder of the year. Penalties, turnovers, and missed field goals or extra points have found a way to contribute to every loss this year. San Francisco enters this week in the top three for penalties against, with first and second year players all over the roster the team has been unable to get out of their own way this season.
While the defense has been able to force a turnover per game on average, giving the ball away has helped put games out of reach. The team currently sits at a “-3” in terms of turnover differential, if these crucial giveaways can be limited it is clear the San Francisco defense is capable of keeping scores close. In a game where Arizona will be relying on field position to protect Drew Stanton from a heavy amount of pass attempts, any free points given up by San Francisco could end up being the margin of another loss.
Both of these teams have been hit with a string of injuries and lopsided box scores as of late which only adds to their collective desperation heading into this contest. While all the talk of securing a high draft selection continues to loom over the 49ers, the dark cloud of this losing streaks also remains evident. The franchise has never gone this far into a season without at least one win, along the way they set an NFL record for consecutive games lost by a margin of three points or less.
The blockbuster trade for Jimmy Garoppolo has helped alleviate some of the sting of this otherwise awful season. With that acquisition, a positive light has been placed on the franchise for the first time this season. Lets see if that can provide a catalyst for the team to notch another “first” for the year.